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Opinions of Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Columnist: Ajayi Oluwapelumi Tobi

“Cedi Rise”, “Demonic” Ebola: Where is Rev Duncan Williams getting it wrong?

Presiding Bishop and General Overseer of the Christian Action Faith Ministries (CAFM), Archbishop Duncan Williams, is one of the very few personalities in Ghana that always caught the attention of the nation when he speaks about national issues or his spiritual concern for mother-Ghana.

Apart from being a voice to reckon with; a status which has endeared political figures to his church when the election approaches or when the nation seems to be in economic or political turmoil, it is also on record that he had trained majority of great Pastors glowing in their ministries- in and outside Ghana.

This reputation- he has achieved in a career which span 38years. So, when Rev Duncan speaks, Ghana media often pause to take note; and if an editor-out of personal reasons-makes a mistake not to splash him on the cover page, no doubt, sales of his newspaper, or traffic to his website is bound to drop, compared to others who did otherwise.

This tells the level of influence the enterprising “man of God” has, on the over 26 million population of Ghanaians.

It is however becoming disturbing to intellectuals- the path Rev Duncan is treading -as regards prayers and prophecies- in his contribution to helping to give direction to the President John Dramani Mahama’s led administration.

Rev Duncan was reported on 13 of October 2014, to have announced that Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a:

1 “demonic” disease

2 planning to make entry to Ghana between October and November

3 And there has to be “divine resolution” to stopping its entry into Ghana

“Spiritually, I tell you that the plague, whether it’s a conspiracy of White man, Black man I don’t care. I just know that this thing is demonic. Anything that kills people the way it’s killing people is demonic.” Rev Duncan asserted.

However, this is quite troubling. Troubling- in the sense that -Rev Duncan just reiterated what has been reported ever since the deadly virus made entry into Nigeria (the black most populated African country) through the Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer. It is troubling in the sense that facts and factors that Ghana could top the list of West African countries where Ebola is likely to penetrate in no time has already been reported.

It is troubling that Rev Duncan could say “Anything that kills people the way it’s (EVD) killing people is demonic”, while he forgot that Ghanaians are still battling with Cholera, with dozens dead, and more than 12000 cases reported in Ghana, which is quite more than what obtain in some of the countries that witnessed or witnessing the disease outbreak.

It is troubling that Rev Duncan as soon forgotten that HIV and AIDs is still killing people and yet, it is not tagged “demonic”.

It is troubling that, in Africa, what we don’t seem to understand or wish not to research it cause- often turn to a “spiritual/demonic” attack.

What makes it more troubling is the fact that, even- after health professionals and government officials had advised spiritual leaders to teach their congregations about what not to eat and avoid in order to prevent themselves against the EVD, Rev Duncan has gone to spiritualise and demonised EVD; calling for a two days fasting and prayer, in order for EVD not to hit Ghana.

It is troubling that, instead of him (Rev Duncan) to support the present government in raising money to equip health workers and immigration officers to acquire necessary tools to ensure effective screening of immigrants and, if-by chance-there is a case of Ebola, the health workers would not be caught unprepared; he’s rather –unconsciously-raising the tempo of fear among Ghanaians.

It is troubling in the sense that- instead of Rev Duncan using his influence to impress it on government to invest in Ghanaian scientists to research for cure; like the Western world is doing; he’s rather calling for “divine resolution” to stop the EVD from entering Ghana.

Let me quickly add that prayer is never inevitable in this circumstance, but when priorities are misplaced, it can only spell doom for such a country. A quick example of that is the struggle the economy is facing-in order to stabilize.

I thought it relevant to take readers back the memory lane: It could be recalled that Ghana’s economy began to experience a nose dive towards the tail end of 2013, a development which caused opinion leaders in the country to pour out wisdom and caution in order for the economy to be stabilized.

Rev Duncan Williams was not left out in this act of patriotism, but the way he went about it raised eye brows, as much as laughter from different quarters. Rev Duncan, in an opposite direction to what many intellectuals and economist did, prayed for Cedi to rise.

Allow me to reproduce, verbatim, as reported, the prayer points of the “man of God” for “Cedi rise”: “…I hold up the cedi with prayer and I command the cedi to recover and I declare the cedi will not fall; it will not fall any further. I command the cedi to climb. I command the resurrection of the cedi. I command and release a miracle for the economy”.

“In the name of Jesus, say Satan take your hands off the President; take your hands off the Central Bank and the Finance Minister.” He commands his church members to say after him: “Say we release innovation for the President, the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Central Bank, the Finance Minister, in the name of Jesus Christ the son of God. Say we command new ideas, breakthroughs and a miracle for the economy. Let the cedi rise in Jesus name”.

However, according to the statistics on 02-02-2014 (same day the prayer point was made): US dollar which sold at Ghc2.20 on the local foreign exchange market before Christmas in 2013, was selling at Ghc2.60. British pound, which sold at Ghc3 (2013) sold at Ghc4.20 (February 2014), while euro and CFA were selling at Ghc3.50 and Ghc4.80 respectively.

In a position of fact, year-on-year depreciation shows a 21.96 per cent depreciation of the cedi against the dollar; 28.88 per cent against the pound sterling; 23.98 per cent against the euro and 25.54 per cent against the Swiss franc.

But seven months down the line, Rev Duncan’s prayers seemed not to have been answered, as things get tougher for Ghanaians. Cedi depreciated to a very low level and it became the worst performing currency.

This development caused the prices of goods and services to skyrocket to high heaven; with companies retrenching staffs, and giving ash economy as the reason, and government have had to run to International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout.

The hardship that could have been averted if government and religious minded Ghanaians had rather listened to the warning of Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana.

Dr. Bawumia, just few weeks after Rev Duncan Williams prayed for the rise of cedi, and cast out demon out of Ghana economy, countered the prophecy of Rev Duncan in a lecture delivered at the Central University College, Miotso Campus, with the theme: “Restoring the Value of the Cedi”: “The sad fact is that Ghana’s economy is in a crisis. I do not use the term “crisis” lightly.” He warned.

He further warned that “serious action and right decisions needed to be taken quickly to salvage the Ghana's troubled economy”. Dr. Bawumia ‘prophesied’ with facts and figures that- if drastic steps are not taken, there’s likelihood that Ghana might return to International Monetary Fund for a bail out before the end of the year. And here we are- seven months down the line.

Analyzing the genesis of the country’s economical challenge, Dr Bawumia noted: “At the heart of any effort to transform the economy is accelerated and broad-based growth. The reality however is that, real GDP growth in Ghana, notwithstanding the onset of oil production, has declined significantly since 2011.”

“Data from the Ghana Statistical Service shows that from a real GDP growth of 8.4 percent (without oil) in 2008, real GDP growth reached 15.0 percent in the year 2011 (amongst the highest in the world that year) as a result of oil production. Since 2011 however, real GDP growth has slowed down to 7.9 percent in 2012 and further down to a projected growth of around 5.0 percent for 2013.

The data for non-oil growth shows that real GDP growth has declined from 9.4 percent in 2011 to 3.9 percent in 2013. This means that Ghana’s economy (excluding oil) is growing at the same growth rate as the year 2000 and half the rate of economic growth in 2008.”

He said, “While government tax revenue stayed constant at some 17.7% of GDP between 2011 and 2013, government expenditures increased by a whopping 6.6% of GDP from 20.1% of GDP in 2011 to 26.7% of GDP at the end of 2013.”

“The bulk of the increase in government expenditure (94%) was in the area of recurrent expenditure. This has resulted in double digit fiscal deficits (12.0 percent in 2012 and 10.9 percent in 2013) over the last two years. This is the first time in the history of Ghana that we have had double digit fiscal deficits two years in a row. With the current fiscal policy stance, it looks most likely that we would record a double digit fiscal deficit by the end of 2014 to make it three successive years in a row”

He however warned that notwithstanding, measures such as the removal of petroleum and electricity subsidies, and an increase in the VAT and other taxes (which Mahama led government had implement in the space of the seven months) would make it go away. “This is an indication that the fiscal quagmire in which the economy finds itself is not short-term one.”

I believe- for Africa to grow like we have been anticipating, there’s a need for influential African Christian leaders to stop playing the role of experts; most especially in time of crisis, but rather -join forces with their governments, through their wealth and influence- to achieve the Africa dream of rising to becoming a continent others look up to for solution and innovation.

Ajayi Oluwapelumi Tobi is an African journalist, based in Ghana. His diplomatic reportage in West Africa has featured in Nigerian Tribune, GhanaWeb. Follow on Twitter: @Ajayitobitweet